A few weeks ago Sarah and Amy from the ScotlandShop team travelled to Dunoon for the Cowal Highland Gathering and an exciting weekend celebrating all that is great about Scottish culture and traditions. We met fellow clan and tartan enthusiasts, listened to the amazing sound of pipers from around the world and of course watched the Highland Dancing Competition.

Look out for the Review of the Games which will be up on the blog soon. Cowal Highland Gathering is home to both the Scottish and World Dancing Championships and dancers travel from all over the World to compete in the prestigious competition. It is every dancers dream to win a Gold Medal at the games. Today, I thought I would take you through the history of highland dancing and how it turned into the worldwide phenomenon it is today.

Highland Dancing first came about hundreds of years ago, long before history was even recorded. This form of dance was first started by Scottish Warriors as one of the best ways to test men on their agility, strength, stamina and accuracy. It was how they selected which men were fit for battle. They also used dancing as a form of exercise. The first documented Highland Dancing to bagpipes recorded was in 1265 at the second marriage of Alexander III in Jedburgh.

However, in 1746 an act was passed by the government in London which made wearing kilts and carrying weapons illegal, this made the traditional sword dance completely out of the question and put an end to most Scottish traditions and as was their goal, really dampened the patriotic spirit. Even after the law was reverted the Scots didn't pick up where they had left off and it took time for culture and traditions to be re-instated. It wasn't until years later when Queen Victoria was in reign that the revival of Highland Games came about. The Queen travelled to Scotland and fell in love with both the country and culture, she was a key figure in the return of many traditions and in particular Highland Dancing.

As mentioned earlier, Highland Dancing was first performed by only men but today competitions are made up by 95% females. Women only started performing Highland Dancing in the early 20th Century during the First World War, as the women wanted to keep the traditions and culture alive while the men were away at war. Since then, the gender roles have slowly shifted resulting in a female led sport.

Competitive dancing is huge at Highland Gatherings, and has been for many years. To make the judging easier the number of highland dances performed competitively has been cut down to only four, when once there were a huge variation performed, meaning that sadly many dances have been lost and forgotten about over the years. The four main dances performed competitively are: The Sword Dance, The Seann Triubhas, The Highland Fling and The Reel of Tulloch. Although most of the traditional factors of the dancing remains, there are a few modern twists entwined in the competitions.

If you were lucky enough to attend Cowal Highland Gathering to compete in the Highland Dance Championships or even just to watch the amazing skills on display we would love to see your pictures so be sure to send them over to us! If you are going to be visiting any of the final Highland Games of the summer and you want to get kitted out in Scottish attire then we would certainly be able to help you out just visit our website or our Edinburgh store.